Studio Ghibli fans, mark your calendars for two weeks from today. On Tuesday, December 17, 2019, the beloved Japanese animation studio will finally release its complete library of films on digital home media in the U.S. and Canada. Ghibli’s North American distributor, GKIDS, has announced through a press release that the studio’s entire catalogue will be available to download for the very first time on all major transactional platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon VOD, Vudu, Google Play, Sony, Microsoft, and Fandango Now.
Just in time for Christmas, both English- and Japanese-language versions of Studio Ghibli’s full line of feature films since 1986 will be available to own digitally, for a suggested retail price of $19.99 each. This includes (in alphabetical order):
Castle in the Sky
The Cat Returns
From Up on Poppy Hill
Howl’s Moving Castle
Kiki’s Delivery Service
My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbors the Yamadas
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
Tales From Earthsea
When Marnie Was There
Whisper of the Heart
The Wind Rises (available in late 2020)
This is huge news for anime fans, many of whom may have lacked a proper way to conveniently watch their favorite Ghibli films as they abandoned physical media for digital movie collections. In Japan, where the DVD and Blu-Ray market is still strong compared to other countries, it’s still easy enough to walk into a rental chain like Tsutaya and pick up classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away off the shelf. (It’s also easy enough to walk into the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, though no photography is allowed once you’re inside, as the studio’s legendary co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki, has always wanted to preserve the best experience possible for fans of his films. This extends to the way they’re watched at home.)
Yet as good as that may be for homegrown Japanese fans, the American equivalent of Tsutaya, Blockbuster Video, has long since vanished (except for the Last Blockbuster in Oregon). In its place, automated kiosks like Redbox and streaming services like Netflix have arisen. Netflix did begin streaming another elusive anime gem, Neon Genesis Evangelion, earlier this year, and GKIDS had already inked an exclusive deal with HBO Max to start streaming the Ghibli catalogue in May 2020.
Until now, however, Ghibli fans of the digital persuasion have been left waiting out in the rain like Totoro, with a hole in their movie libraries big enough to drive a Catbus through. Old-school Disney fans could at least take solace in knowing that the dreaded Disney Vault would reopen at some indeterminate future point and let their favorite hand-drawn animated movies out again. Studio Ghibli’s future was always less certain.
For years, the only Ghibli film available on the iTunes Store was an English dubbed version of Grave of the Fireflies, directed by the late Isao Takahata, the studio’s underappreciated half. Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature film, The Castle of Cagliostro, was on there, but that was a film he made in his pre-Ghibli years. Now, fans can finally saddle up for that digital Ghibli marathon they’ve been dreaming about since they pawned their DVD players. Heck, you could even conceivably watch some of these movies while you’re on the bullet train to Japan’s upcoming Studio Ghibli theme park in 2022. I know how I’ll be spending my Christmas vacation this year … how about you?
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